As children leave behind rec leagues and advance to select teams, a new question begins to take shape: What should you do when your child reaches high school? Hitting that milestone means deciding whether teen athletes should join their high school team in addition to—or instead of—their current club squad.
The most important benefit of select teams is that for most sports—the main exception being football—they offer a better, more direct chance of recruitment by college programs. The talent pool, competition level and opportunity to be seen are much greater with club programs than with high school teams, especially if your child's school is located in a smaller district. From soccer to softball, the select system in sports allows scouts to easily identify elite players, as well as the ones who are dedicated to making it at the next level.
That's not to say, however, that there aren't benefits to having your child play for their high school. Not only can it foster school spirit and encourage new friendships, it's also less expensive than select teams, where costs can quickly add up. And for players who don't see themselves as future Division I athletes, it can also be a more laidback experience compared to the rigorous demands, travel schedule and pressure of select teams.
Many athletes, however, decide to play on both teams. Although scheduling conflicts can be an issue, pulling double duty can help players improve their versatility and skill. Teens also might be able to fill a leadership role on one team over the other, and they gain an additional mentor in their high school coach. This can be especially helpful when navigating recruitment, as dates, deadlines and eligibility requirements can vary among sports, making coaches an invaluable resource.
The biggest argument against playing on both teams is injury. With twice the practices and games to attend, players run a greater risk of hurting themselves. They also have less downtime to recuperate, which can exacerbate seemingly minor aches and pains. Because of the demanding schedule and threat of injury, some select programs won't allow players to compete in high school sports. If being a part of their high school team is important to your child, check with their select coach as high school approaches.
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Players can also experience mental roadblocks if the pressure of juggling two teams—as well as school and other activities—becomes too much to take on. It's important to make sure handling high school and select sports is feasible and to reevaluate the decision to play both if your child seems in danger of burning out.
Ultimately, the decision of how to handle high school athletics depends largely on what your child wants out of their sport. If the answer is to play at a collegiate level, then a select team should be the main priority. If not, high school teams offer another way to stay involved in an activity they love. There isn't one recipe for success that works with every player, but communicating with your child and their coaches can help you create a plan that fits their goals.